A standing room only crowd gathered during this year’s CattleCon for an exciting and in depth presentation – the Checkoff Highlight Session.

Kicking it all off was USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jennifer Lester Moffitt. She noted big things already happening or coming soon, including increasing market transparency with the Cattle Contracts Library Program, which she called “a work in progress.”

The industry has seen lots of benefits with value-added production, Moffitt continued, and Checkoff funds are being used for vital research for sustainability.

Moffitt also noted USDA-APHIS wants producer input on amendments to the rule for animal disease traceability regulations by the March 22 deadline. Read the rule and submit comments at tinyurl.com/85ndha87.

She concluded her brief remarks by saying, “Thank you for your service, and thank you for your diligence.”

Representing the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative was Kaitlyn Swope, director of consumer affairs. NEBPI reaches from Maine to Virginia – and nearly 74 million consumers – but six of those states lack a state beef council. In that same region, people outnumber cattle 15 to 1, which she said reinforces the need for the NEBPI program.

Swope highlighted the initiative’s partnership with Seton Hall Athletics, which has six men’s and eight women’s sports. The university’s basketball program is in the top 10% nationally and is located near to Manhattan. The focus of the campaign has been on education, fan engagement and awareness of beef.

“We know Northeast consumers are eating less meat, so we’re looking for ways to make it important and easy to prepare,” Swope said. “Our aim [with partnerships like these] is to increase sales.” She added NEBPI is hoping to expand into collegiate partnerships with Boston College, UConn and Providence College as well.

The North American Meat Institute shared information on a somewhat niche sector of the beef industry – veal. Ashley Russell, formerly director of veal marketing with the New York Beef Council and new NYBC executive director, spoke about the protein source.

“Veal are primarily raised in the Northeast on family farms – mainly Amish and Mennonite farms in New York and Pennsylvania,” she explained. “It’s a very regional protein, mostly found on the East and West coasts.”

Russell’s focus was on the Veal Quality Assurance (VQA) program, which she said is similar to other quality assurance programs. A final review of the new program is expected in April.

To help promote veal, this past holiday season ad campaigns were launched, there were partnerships with food influencers and the veal promotion team hosted a well-attended webinar with the American Culinary Federation.

NAMI’s Vice President for Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Susan Backus spoke about the push to maintain beef safety, with three research projects underway. Researchers are also looking at how to reduce Salmonella to make beef safer.

J.J. Jones, executive director of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, mentioned the recent Antibiotics Symposium that NIAA hosted in Virginia. “People are still very concerned about antibiotic use,” he said.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture talked about their classroom resources for science teachers and professional development. Their programs have been science classes across the U.S. for six years, and their influence is now reaching into millions of adults.

The On the Farm STEM Experience was highlighted, as it “brings together teams of educators with experts in science education and agricultural science to envision a model for science learning that will inspire today’s students, our next generation of scientists and citizens, to take action and feel empowered to use agriculture to improve society.” The next experience is slated for June 11 – 14 in Denver. Learn more on the website linked above.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is using Checkoff funding to track consumer perceptions, noting that the top protein choice for Americans is a competition between beef and chicken.

NCBA has a lot going on. Similar to Farm Bureau, they spoke of Masters of Beef Advocacy classroom kits (at mba.beeflearningcenter.org). They said they now have about 24,000 advocates nationwide, 7,500 of which are youth.

For producers doing their best work, there are BQA Awards – recognizing outstanding beef and dairy producers, marketers and educators that best demonstrate animal care and handling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective operations.

One of their goals, along with many other organizations utilizing Checkoff funding, is to take more advantage of trends and social media to keep beef front of mind.

by Courtney Llewellyn